Urban residents living near parks are healthier and less depressed

Hannah Devlin, Times Online 16 Oct 09;

City dwellers living near parks are healthier and suffer fewer bouts of depression, a study has revealed.

The study was adjusted to take into account socio-economic background and found that the effect of green surroundings was greatest for people with low levels of education and income.

The study, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, found that in urban zones where 90 per cent of the area was green space the incidence of anxiety disorders or depression was 18 people per thousand. In areas with only 10 per cent greenery the incidence was 26 per thousand.

The annual rates of more than a dozen disease types, including cardiovascular, respiratory, neurological, digestive and mental disorders, were also lower for those living near parks.

The impact on health was most marked in people who spent a lot of time in their green surroundings, especially children and people aged 45 to 65.

The findings are based on health records in the Netherlands for nearly 350,000 people registered with 195 family doctors in 95 practices across the country.

“The role of green space in the living environment should not be underestimated,” the study concludes.